Kiwanis Club Gala Helps Young Artists

For more than a century, the Kiwanis Club of Rockford has tirelessly served youth in Rockford and the surrounding area. Founded on Jan. 20, 1917, the Rockford branch of this global organization is one of the oldest of 6,000 Kiwanis Clubs around the world.

“The very first Kiwanis Club was founded in Michigan in 1915, so we were pretty close after that,” says Lana Dresser, a Kiwanis Club of Rockford member.

This year, Dresser and fellow Kiwanis member Heather Hall Wang are co-chairing one of the Kiwanis Club of Rockford’s biggest fundraisers. The Budding Artists Gala is scheduled for Friday, May 10, at the Radisson Conference Center in Rockford. This annual event gives young artists in the region a unique opportunity to showcase their talent and earn money for their artwork.

“We select 30 students from 10 Rockford high schools,” says Hall Wang. “They each create some type of art piece.”

Students are free to choose their medium and the type of art piece they’d like to create.
“In the past we’ve had paintings, jewelry and sculpture,” says Dresser. “We even had a beautiful coffee table.

The art is auctioned off during the gala, with the artist taking home 50% of the proceeds. The other half goes to Kiwanis Club of Rockford to be distributed to area organizations that help children in the community.

“People start bidding and it’s a lot of fun,” says Hall Wang. “The auctioneers are just fantastic. The kids love it because they can make some money as well. Last year, our No. 1 piece was sold to the highest bidder for $2,500.”

For the artists, it’s a thrill to see the art that they’ve worked so hard to create become the focus of a spirited bidding war. It’s also a chance for many young artists to experience the excitement of making their first art sale.

“It’s really exciting for the students because they get a chance to watch people bid over and over for their artwork,” says Hall Wang.

Tickets for the Budding Artists Gala are available for $75 and can be purchased from a Kiwanis Club of Rockford member, online at or by sending a check to Kiwanis Charities, P.O. Box 8472, Rockford, IL, 61126. ❚